Monday, December 31, 2012

End of 2012

At the beginning of the year, I had no idea I'd be resigning, starting my own classes, marrying Hanna, and becoming a stepfather—some of that business conducted in Chinese. Hanna and I are working hard and will, we hope, be in the States at the end of summer 2013. I've applied to go back to school, and we'll soon be starting the process to get Hanna and Eileen their green cards.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Or Maybe We'll Stay a Little Longer

Still here in Dalian, though Eileen's gone now (because getting married here requires that we travel and we figured it'd be unfair to make her follow us around, she's back with her grandparents). Hanna and I are leaving tomorrow for Harbin. We should be able to get married on Monday unless the officials give us trouble. Plans keep changing, so I never know from one day to the next whether we'll be able to be married or stay in Dalian or what, but knowing that I can't control much, I just let go more.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

These Being the Last Days in Dalian

During the summer, we received news that the school was going to close. Although it had had problems from before the time I came, the school always managed to keep going, but we suspected the worst. Hanna and I rented a new apartment, preparing to separate from the places the school had rented for all its teachers.

Then there were shitty weeks in which there were rumors that school would be bought and combined with some other school. Or, hell, it might be closed. Or now it might keep going but with only a few teachers. Now it was definitely going to be closed. Wait. Wait. Now it's. Etc.

In the end, somebody who hadn't worked in six years and who knew nothing about education, by her own admission, took the school over. People nobody'd ever seen before kept coming into the building, taking pictures, talking about big changes, and pointing into the Western teachers' office. "{These are the foreigners.}" There were long meetings in Chinese because the new owner couldn't speak English. She asked my advice. I told her to listen to the people who'd been there a long time. They knew what they were doing. She said, "No, I mean real advice." She and her cronies watched the halls, standing close to everybody, listening but saying nothing. They didn't ask about curriculum or watch classes. One principal, one of several over the weeks, didn't know that most of the Westerners could understand him when he talked about us but not to us.

Not liking what was going on at the school, Hanna and I left it. We had the idea for our own classes, but we never wanted to cause trouble for our old emplorer. We'd put years into the project, and I personally felt like I was losing a lot, my students, my friends, my time, so I didn't want to fight what was left of the place.

When Hanna and I came back from Shuangyashan, we started our own classes. We expected trouble one day, but it came during the second week. Besides students and their parents, we didn't tell anybody we were back, but of course everybody knew. We were threatened with being reported, with my deportation, so I went back to our old school. Most of our students had nothing to do with the old place anymore. They'd quit because of the hike in tuition last year or were otherwise unhappy. Our price was much lower because we weren't looking for a payday. But what could we do? The new owner said she couldn't compete and therefore had to report us. She said I was putting her in a delicate position. She made me an offer to return to the old place, and at first, I thought it was a good idea. I didn't feel scared, as a friend suggested, just fucking annoyed. The thought of teaching class in my living room and waiting for the day when an official would knock on my door and stop everything was taking up too much space in my head.

Everybody's always talking about what's best for the students, but if they could name one goddamn student, I'd eat my hat.

So when the new owner went on and on about what was best for the students, trying to make me feel guilty for leaving, it was easy to see she was full of shit. The meeting she, Hanna, and I had was long and mostly in Chinese. I don't know if you've ever been in a meeting where it's not in your native language but where they're discussing your life, but it's not the best feeling in the world. The only time the new owner would speak English was to say things that had the potential to cause a fight between Hanna and me. "You did a very bad thing, Hanna. Tim is American. You know how Americans are. They must follow rules. They're not like us." The worst was "Even though you're a couple, you're not the same." She meant that Hanna was of lower quality.

Just fuck it. Even if the new owner can't report me, even if nobody ever knocks on our door, I don't want to spend so much time thinking about it, which I already have. So. We're out. We're finishing classes here and moving to Shuangyashan.


Hanna, in Chinese: "{Who's your dad?}"

The dry daughter: "踢米," which means "kick rice" but which is pronounced something like /timmy/.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Where's Mom?

The dry daughter, who doesn't speak any English, in Chinese: "{Where's Mom?}"

Me, in English: "She went to go pee."

Her: "狗屁?" which is pronounced like /go pee/ but which means "dog fart."

Sunday, October 14, 2012

In Which There Is a You People Want to Know the Blood Of

The woman in the bus station saw you and me talking and so thought you were of mixed blood. She grabbed your shoulder from behind, and the look on your face was, what the fuck? You weren't of mixed blood, your mom told her.

In the shopping center, two woman saw you and me talking. Hello, they said in English. In Chinese, they asked you whether you were Chinese. You said you weren't. They asked you whether you were a Chinese baby. You turned your head away, so I talked for you. Yes, she's Chinese. Was it so weird, your mom asked.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Dry Daughter Comes Home

Yesterday morning Hanna, the dry daughter, and I woke up on a bus with beds. Last night Hanna and I taught class in our living room with the dry daughter looking on and laughing.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Dry Daughter

Hanna said tonight that she was thinking about bringing the dry daughter back to Dalian with us. We're going to Shuangyashan for National Day again this year.

Hanna keeps asking me what my family and friends back in the States would think of my marrying somebody with a kid. Her mother said she worried a stepfather would hurt Eileen, would look out only for a child of his own. Who's talking about anybody else, though?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

A (Love?) Poem

over at Prick of the Spindle: "Alvaro de Campos"

Friday, September 14, 2012


For me, writing and teaching are the same thing: you have to feel like you have the ability not only to create but also to see what everybody needs.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

More on Marriage

Not that either of us knows when the date will be. But soon. Soon as we figure out how I'm supposed to prove I'm not married, which the Chinese government requires. Then we've got to go to a place that can marry us, which might not be anywhere near here.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Married To

Hanna Chen, which should come as no surprise to anyone.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Oh, And

I'm getting married pretty soon.

Sunday, September 9, 2012


I want all the writing to be part of one big constellation.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Four Years Out

I might as well say, since it soon won't be a secret, that the school I work for is either closing or being sold soon. Either way, I'm out. My contract actually expires tomorrow, though I'll stay with J—— until J—— is no longer J——. I'm going to start my own classes. With me is Hanna, aka CQ. If the current school is bought, I'll have to compete against it, something Hanna assures me isn't a big deal. I'll have lower prices, and my classes will be good. We've known for a couple weeks now, and it would just be nice if we could end things. Thinking about all the things that we still have to do is taking up too much real estate in my head.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Just Me and My Mind, Just Me and My Wife

I'm not talking about what Americans do or what Chinese do. I'm only talking about what you and I do.

Friday, June 29, 2012

New Poem

Blip Magazine published "I Up Car" on Wednesday. Thanks to Frederick Barthelme and Meg Pokrass.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Speak: Exist

I love when you wake me up and I'm already excited about words.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Expert Expats

There are two things everybody wants to be an expert on. The first is language. The second is everything else.

Monday, April 2, 2012


Recently a writer requested online that someone proofread her manuscript. I used to do that type of work. My kind of thing. I mean, who wouldn't like a job reading poetry and fiction and talking with authors about their work? So I wrote the writer, and when she asked me about a fee, I requested only that she send me three of her favorite books from the past year since it's so hard to get new books in English out here. She wrote back that she'd do even better: three books a month!

Sunday, April 1, 2012


I was reading in a cafe when I heard my name. It was Hillary, and with her was a man from Chile. We sat, three people, each from a different country, speaking together, him trying to get her to roll her rs, she trying to get him to get the tones right.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Don't Talk About

"Why do you guys have so many words for sex?"

"I don't know."

"Is that a noun or a verb?"


Monday, March 19, 2012

Plane Story

This morning Christopher Schaberg and Mark Yakich posted "Gain a Day," a story about my first return to the States, at Airplane Reader.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


Until somebody mentioned it, I forgot the whole deal where the government shuts off the heat. It must have been off for days already. Horribly sick, which means I don't have to go anywhere.

What would being here as an older person be like? I told a friend the other day I was afraid of losing my Americanness if I stayed here the rest of my life. What did that mean, he wondered. I didn't know how to respond. Just a vague feeling of loss. Shouldn't one, for example, be surrounded by one's fellow country folk late in life?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Happy St. Patrick's Day Easter

We celebrated Easter today because we wanted the students to get a chance to do an egg hunt and dye some eggs. It was pretty cool to see all the designs they came up with. The picture above is of the eggs our teachers designed, however.

Friday, March 16, 2012


Every sentence here has to be a careful one. Too many, and I'll fall back into wanting to be here every day. Above, who I thought was a violinist is no longer, but only because I know it's not a violin, playing a violin, although the instrument sounds very stringy. Imagine a simple life as (1) teaching two days a week, five classes each day, with a small staff, like you and one other person; (2) writing eight hours a day all those other days; (3) never having to be anywhere. A cell of language. Within these walls, we say, we'll speak this way. I keep going to bed with the "Michael Ellis" episode of Monty Python playing. Michael Palin has so many parts. I'm scared by the thought of being called by the wrong name and never being able to meet this other person. The best thing, you can repeat to yourself, is to stick to the schedule. Early to bed, early to etc.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Statement of Purpose

For this week's project (one of two), I'm beginning once again the process of writing a statement of purpose for admission into a PhD program. The process is rather fun despite the difficulty along the way. The statement of purpose is the steeplechase of writing. Why do I want to do the thing I love most? Good question. Writing about writing is one of the easiest things to do if nobody's watching, if I'm not keeping an eye on myself, but getting the thing to be interesting—well.

But some days—this week, for instance—I can't picture myself leaving China, strange as that idea may seem. As I told my friend CQ yesterday, one thing you get used to is not understanding much. When you do understand something, it's quite marvelous, even if it's something very minor, like how to say "ice cream." What would it be like to live almost twenty-seven years in your own country and then live the rest of your life somewhere else? It's easy for me to imagine living here as a young man, but I can't picture myself here as an old person.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


today, 11:05 a.m. (CST): depart from Dalian
1:20 p.m. (KST): arrive in Seoul
4:40 p.m.: depart from Seoul
today, 10:00 a.m. (PST): arrive in San Francisco

Monday, January 16, 2012


The semester, my fifth, is over. It was a long one. The apartment's clean—at least to my standards, standards not difficult to meet—and I've exchanged money into USD. I'm still not packed yet, but it won't take long.

Is this me, or is this just me here?

Another New Year's—why not? This afternoon the fireworks started. I was hoping to be out of the country before they began. Actually, Spring Festival is a fun time to be in China, but I'm glad I'll be gone this year. To Yosemite National Park for some quiet.